The Real Threat To Iowa Marriages: letter to a GOP Senator

(Great diary, and great letter! - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Cross posted at DailyKos:

Iowa Republicans, in concert with the Huckabee Evangelicals, supposed "Family values" activists, and organized anti-gay marriage groups today went into a full court press to respond to The Iowa Supreme Court Marriage decision of last week.

I moved back to Southern Iowa from Minnesota with my partner last year, to a house in a very small town (pop: under 300) partially to be around some of my remaining family, but mostly because we found a house on three lots we could just about afford to buy, and that would allow us to enjoy the quiet life of gardening and critters we'd always hoped for.

I was very nervous about coming back to this extremely conservative rural Iowa County (Ringgold), but I have supportive, even progressive family here, and there's always Des Moines 65 miles up the road if I want to march, or sit on a friendly gay bar stool.

The house itself was a mess, but having worked together as contractors and remodelers for years, we enjoy the challenge.

And now... as I said in a post on another diary last week, this unamimous Iowa Supreme Court decision left both of us feeling like we'd found a box of currency and gold under one of the floor boards.

When I imagined my own state rep and State Senator both standing in the well of their respective legislative bodies, boldly saying their calls were 100% against the Marriage Ruling, I decided I had to call them.  

When I called my sister across town to ask for some solidarity and action, she called back to let me know she gave them both an earful.

I then decided to email at least one of them.

And it got kind of personal, but it was downright cathartic.

I don't know if she'll read it, but you might like to.

Sen. Reynolds;
My name is Gary Stewart, and I live at XXX North XXXXX St. in Kellerton.  
I am so proud of The Supreme Court of the Great State of Iowa's recent unaminous decision that Iowa will no longer allow continued discrimination against our gay and lesbian citizens in regards to marriage.

I was born in Mt. Ayr in 1953, and the leading threat to the institution of marriage then, as now, was not Gay marriage, but probably the infidelity that led to my parents divorce.

I should clarify this.  It was my father's infidelity that led to the divorce and bannishment of my Mother, with four siblings and myself to another far-away state.  My father, who held marriage sacred, and considered homosexuals less than human, remained here in Iowa, where, after a lives-shattering contested divorce, he remarried in a few short months.  
He and his new wife adopted a baby girl the year after that, so he only managed one $50.00 court ordered child support payment to his natural born children until my mother remarried 7 years later.    
He later divorced and deserted his second wife (and adopted child), going on to  marry 5 other women, in a spree that may have single-handedly skewed some of the demographics that will undoubtedly be presented to you in defense of "Traditional Marriage."
But all his life, he considered himself a good "Pro-Family" Republican.

My Mother's new marriage, thankfully,  was to a military man, who adopted the 3 younger of us children.  After the initial shock and denial, my evangelical Mother and Adopted Father grew supportive of their gay son, and wanted for him what they had for themselves.
The two of them provided a model stable home and marriage that lasted until their sudden and unexpected deaths, 2 days apart, in 1999.

I would implore you to concentrate on making divorce more difficult in our State before expending energy on making Marriage impossible for many of its responsible citizens, if "protecting" the institution is your concern.

As for the five of us kids, we all are grown and in stable, long-term relationships, despite the rampant heterosexual promiscuity we were subjected to, and only one of us is not married in a legal sense.

That would be me.

That will change now, due the courageous and principled Iowa Supreme Court decision made last week, because I made the fortuitious decision to return to live in my home state last April with my partner of  13 years.

Our State Supreme Court's decision strengthens marriage.  It does nothing to diminish the institution, any more than the striking of anti-miscegenation laws of the 50s and 60s did.  

One of my sisters could not have married under those antiquated laws, nor could the beautiful nephew and niece she gave us as a result of that union have had the "luxury" of  married parents in the home.  

That niece, under old laws, could not be serving her Country in her position in the U.S. Army because prior to WWll, segregation and discrimination, in The Armed Services, in schools, and all throughout society was enshrined in Law.  

Thank God, Iowa has always been a leader for the rest of the Country!

Personally, gay marriage has never been a big priority to me before this, as I have borne witness to and concentrated on fighting discrimination and gay bashing all my post-adolecent life.  But now, I am filled with hope.

Hope for myself, and hope for all the little gay kids growing up, who no longer have only the old stereotypes to model themselves on.  

Now disabled, I am low income, and cannot afford a lawyer to draft and file the hundreds of different contracts with my partner that would provide us with a near approximation of the marriage you enjoy and the rights it confers on you and your spouse.
Even if I could afford those contracts, they would not bring me and mine to parity with you and yours.

As one of your constituents, I urge you to recognise Iowa's proud, progressive history on Civil Rights, and join with me in celebrating the Iowa Supreme Courts marriage decision.

Once our stubborn generations are gone, or even as we watch power shift to a far more tolerant younger generation, this marriage issue will be looked on with as much embarassment and puzzlement as slavery, anti-miscegenation laws, and other indefensible past forms of  discrimination are today.

Please be on the right side of history on this.                                                                

Thank you.                                                                               Gary Stewart

P.S.  Are you interested in attending Ringgold County's first legal same-sex wedding?

  • My first ever post here

    but then there's a lot of firsts happening here in the bleeding heartland lately, so here's to many more!

    • Thanks, DesMoine Dem

      If there are other gay people or open minded progressives in or around Ringgold County, it would be great to hear from you.

      Moving down here is stangely reminiscent of coming out way back in 1972 in the mid-sized city of Duluth MN.  

      At once cautious but exhillerating, especially after The Decision.

      I never thought I'd live to see the day (being HIV+ since 84 hasn't helped my personal optimism on the issue) any state I lived in would be so forward thinking.  Not even Minnesota.

      I'm looking forward to visiting Bleeding Heartland frequently.  What a wonderful website.

      • you should get in touch with One Iowa

        They have organizers working all over the state:

        This state has changed so much, even in the last ten years. When I was in high school in the 1980s, I never heard of any out teen anywhere in Iowa. Now lots of high schools have gay-straight alliances.

  • Give me a date for your nuptials...

    And I would gladly swing by on my way to Maloy. 🙂

    Nice piece. This just might be the biggest thing to hit Ringgold since they told the kids they couldn't keep shotguns and squirrel rifles in their high school lockers in Mt Ayr(immediately post Columbine shootings, those durned knee jerk liberals).

    • partner Gunter says I have to get on my knees

      to propose first.

      Easy for a 41 year old to say.

      It will happen as soon as I'm sure I can get back up without embarrassing myself, or trust him not to laugh.

      Seriously, it's heady stuff thinking about actually being able to get married.  

      But it will happen, and this year.

  • Awesome letter

    As a fellow Southern Iowan (Wayne/Decatur)(currently in Austin, Texas) and as a gay man that hopes to come home and marry my partner at some point, I found your letter and story very touching.  Thank you for sharing it and for bringing your example to an area of the state that needs  it.  I hope you have a beautiful wedding day!

  • Wishing you luck and happiness

    I grew up in Arispe and my wife is from Diagonal.  We would be willing to attend your wedding.

    • My brother had the bar in Diagonal

      many years ago...Dean's Diagonal Bar.

      All I remember of it was the "stag" nights with various fried anotomical parts for guys watching strippers.

  • Congratulations and may you live happily ever after

  • Proud of Iowa

    Thanks for your story. Boy, you have been through a lot. Congratulations on making it work for you in spite of your hardships!

    I also would love to have more attention to divorce prevention in Iowa (live in SE Iowa). What would have happened if the old time infidelity grounds for divorce got the guilty party some well deserved punishment?

    What destroys most marriages is financial difficulty. Thus, the Iowa Legislature's attention to providing jobs, restoring the middle class, and to providing real health care to all (to prevent financial ruin when faced with catastrophic illness) is the most meaningful solution to the degradation of marriage.

    I thank the Iowa Legislature not only for staring down inequality but for continuing to attend to the proven solutions for strengthening the sanctity of marriage, economic recovery.

  • Well, I'm very late to the game, but...

    ....let me say congratulations!  I'm a minister serving a progressive UCC congregation in Montgomery County, and if those nuptials haven't happened yet and you would like a minister to officiate, contact me!  But most of all, I am so happy that you and your beloved will now be equal in the eyes of the law.  Many blessings!

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